Charismatic chaplain helps troopers keep the faith in Afghanistan
August 8, 2011
CAMP KUNDUZ, Afghanistan -- It's another hot and dusty Sunday morning, and service is about to begin at the Camp Kunduz Chapel.
No, this place of worship isn't nestled in a small town in the heart of the Bible belt. It's about as far away from there as one can get. Furthermore, the small plywood structure is nothing reminiscent of a massive cathedral capable of housing a huge congregation of worshipers.
Still, for Soldiers of faith stationed in the heart of northern Afghanistan, the place serves its purpose quite well.
It's a place where Cpt. Emmanuel Woods, chaplain for Task Force Guns, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, charismatically finds a way to get his message across to the troopers in attendance, with sermons that emphasize spiritual resilience.
The emotion Chaplain Woods invokes during his sermons makes for a lively atmosphere, according to Pvt. Brandon Blocker, originally from Tuscaloosa, Ala., assigned to Company D, TF Guns.
Another Soldier who normally attends church service at Kunduz agrees.
"He has a unique and humorous way of delivering his messages," said Spc. Shyteria Miller, a supply specialist, originally from Houston, assigned to Headquarters Company, TF Guns.
Blocker added, "You can tell that everyone is engaged during the service when he is preaching."
Woods' message of spiritual resilience is one that he attributes to personal experiences that tested his ability to endure hardships earlier on in his life.
He cites spiritual resilience as one of the main factors that allowed him to overcome an impoverished lifestyle and the loss of his father in war-torn Liberia back in the 1990's.
"It was my belief in a higher power [during tough times] that gave me hope," he said.
As a refugee, he managed to make his way to the United States and eventually became inspired to join the Chaplain corps.
Now as a chaplain, Woods has a way of connecting with people, said Sgt. 1st Class Chaka Grant, the brigade chaplain's assistant, originally from Jacksonville, Fla.
"He establishes a comfort level with people and that makes him very approachable at any time," said Grant.
Grant said she appreciated the opportunity to practice her faith alongside Woods this Sunday morning, and says her faith is what keeps her moving forward.
As Woods concluded his sermon, the Sunday service ended in song. An abundance of smiles filled the chapel. It was obvious that he had achieved his objective on this day, which was to imbue those in attendance with a message of faith that resonates in each and every one of them.
Afterwards, Woods talked about why he feels spiritual nourishment is important in a combat theater like Afghanistan.
"One of the basic human rights that we have in our Constitution is religious freedom," said Woods. "If we can exercise that right here in Afghanistan, it shows that we are a powerful country."